DENVER (AP) — Republican attempts to recruit a well-known challenger for a Colorado Senate race suffered a setback Wednesday when a prominent prosecutor said he wouldn't run against Democrat Michael Bennet.
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler announced by email Wednesday that he has decided not to challenge Bennet after weeks of publicly pondering a candidacy. Brauchler would have been a clear front-runner.
Republicans have failed to recruit a prominent challenger to the state's senior senator, and the Colorado seat is key for the party's hopes to hold onto the Senate in the 2016 elections.
"Despite the overwhelming support and encouragement that I received over the past few weeks, I have decided that now is not the right time for me and my family for me to make a run," Brauchler said in an email to supporters.
Brauchler, 45, led the case against Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes and had talked several times about running for statewide office. Brauchler mulled challenging the Democratic governor last year but couldn't because of the Holmes case.
Brauchler won his first election only three years ago, months after James Holmes killed 12 and injured 70 in his attack on a screening of a Batman movie. Speculation about Brauchler's political future reached fever pitch a few weeks ago when the Holmes case ended.
Brauchler's decision puts the Republican primary contest in flux. The party's candidates have little statewide name recognition — state Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman announced earlier this year that he wouldn't run for Senate. State Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango talked about running but changed her mind.
Bennet is seeking a second term in the battleground state. In 2010, he narrowly edged another county prosecutor, Republican Ken Buck, who went on to win an open U.S. House race last year.
Colorado Democrats were quick to call Brauchler's decision a good development for Bennet.
"This all but ensures that a crowded primary, full of candidates passed over by party leaders, is coming to Colorado," state Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker said.
Coffman pointed out that even the little-known candidates are within striking distance of Bennet in some early polls.
"I do think that a competitive candidate will emerge in time," Coffman said.
Associated Press writers Dan Elliott and Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report.